Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On the Morality of Masturbation: Part 3

Below is Anon's second response to my stance on masturbation (see also my original post and his first response). It's basically just more of the same, as I hope to reveal.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - - - - - -
First, let me say that I respect that the goal here is to create good in the world and prevent bad. So we are aligned there, and I respect you for it. There is certainly an abundance of unhealthy sexuality in our society, and that is to be frowned upon. However, it doesn’t mean we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as it were.
I agree

To say we shouldn’t do it because it says so in book X on page Y avoids real analysis.
You can't minimize my argument like that. I gave many more reasons for condemning masturbation other than, "Because the Church says so."

That said, I don't know if you're a Catholic or not, but we believe that the Magisterium's authority on matters of faith and morals comes from Jesus Christ Himself. So, if the Church says masturbation is wrong, you better believe I'm going to accept that, and I'm going to put a great deal of "real analysis" into understanding why the Church teaches what She does so I can explain it to other people.

In response to your post, I agree that masturbation is not “normal” simply because most people do it, nor is whatever many people do “normal” and acceptable simply by the fact that many are doing it. Many people do things which are abnormal and unhealthy behavior, and many people do things that are not acceptable. However, masturbation is in fact normal, and fully acceptable.
I don't know if you realize this, but you just wrote two sentences explaining why the normalcy of something isn't an argument for it, and then you used the normalcy of it as an argument for it! You basically just contradicted yourself.

In and of itself, it causes no harm.
Wrong. Masturbation is harmful on many levels. For one, when images of persons are used as the stimulus, masturbation results in the objectifying of people. The person performing the act is basically using another person for the sexual gratification that he can receive from him or her. As I outlined in my previous post, our sexual faculties are meant for unity and procreation and LOVE, not for using other people.

Even when there is no visual stimulus of another person involved, masturbation is still harmful because it fosters the misconception that the sole purpose of a person's sexuality is to provide him or herself with gratification. That's all masturbation offers: momentary sexual gratification. But, as I've already shown, that is not the sole purpose of our sexual organs and urges. They are meant to facilitate the unity between two people, the two becoming one flesh, and bringing new life into the world. Masturbation simply ignores these purposes of human sexuality, and the more we engage in it the more we forget what human sexuality is truly meant to be and do.

Masturbation also destroys relationships. What message do you think it sends to a woman to find that her husband masturbates? I'll list a few possibilities:
  • "He doesn't love me enough to save himself for me."
  • "He doesn't find me sexually attractive."
  • "He'd rather be with his fantasy women than with me."
  • "I have to try to live up to the girls in the magazines and the videos."
Masturbation ostracizes the very people we are supposed to love and cherish and give ourselves completely to. It creates a private sex life ulterior to the sex life of the couple, a secondary and competing sex life. It's just not healthy to have a sex life with anyone other than the person you married, and the messages that this gives to that person is degrading and damaging.

Finally, I think that any sins we commit alone, in privacy, with no one else around are often times the most dangerous ones. Sins like this give us a false sense of independence and the mistaken perception that a person's private sins don't effect anyone but himself. That's just dead wrong. We are one Body, and we rise and fall together. "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Cor 12:26). Christians are not only united to Christ but also to each other:

Rom 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

1 Cor 12:13,26 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

2 Cor 2:5 But if any one has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure--not to put it too severely--to you all.

Eph 1:9-10 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Eph 2:19-21 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;

Eph 4:15-16,25 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Col 2:18-19 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Heb 13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body.

This interconnectedness means that, if masturbation is a sin (and I think I've already proven that it is), then it negatively effects everyone, not just yourself.

Quite the contrary, masturbation helps you understand your sexuality better, instead of denying it. Being sexual in a healthy way is a normal part of life. Males and females are designed to be sexual, and to be attracted to each other. This is normal and what keeps us going as a species.
More of the tiresome "normal" argument. I agree that "being sexual in a healthy way is a normal part of life" and that "males and females are designed to be sexual, and to be attracted to each other." BUT, you have yet to provide any evidence that masturbation is a healthy way to be sexual, nor that it is an appropriate way to communicate our attraction to each other. There is still a right and a wrong way to communicate that attraction, and masturbation is the wrong way.

Are you a Christian? Do you belive that the Bible has any authority in this debate? If you do, then I've already offered the Biblical principles for human sexuality and I've already shown how masturbation is contrary to these principles. All you've done so far is say that masturbation is "healthy" and "normal."

But the notion that because it is what keeps us going as a species, therefore it cannot be used for anything but making another human, has no basis in anything real.
Again, you have offered only a caricature of my argument. I said that sex must be procreative and unitive. It must be an act of selfless love and intimate communion, when two become one flesh, as Scripture tells us. That is our guideline in determining the morality of sexual actions. It is very grounded in the "real" b/c it is based on the teaching of God Himself, who determines all that is real and true.

You can either accept this in a healthy way, or fight it. I contend that it is unhealthy to suppress sexual feelings, or to pretend they aren’t there - and it seems there is ample evidence of this as you are likely aware.
Shall we then act on every sexual impulse we have? That's the logical conclusion of what you're saying here. If we shouldn't suppress our sexual feelings, then I hope you're ok with incest, pedophilia, homosexuality, rape, adultery, orgies, and every other way in which human beings act on their sexual impulses.

The fact is that there is a right and a wrong way to act on our sexual impulses, and not all sexual impulses can be acted upon. I say that masturbation is the wrong way to act on your attraction towards another person. We must order ourselves and our thoughts and feelings towards the Will of God. That is the only way to live "healthy."

You wrote “learning about and enjoying our sexuality does not mean acting on every sexual impulse and having sex however and whenever we want”. Agreed. Clearly this is not what I stated, nor does it have anything to do with masturbation. I think you will concur that masturbation is not “acting on every impulse and having sex however and whenever we want”. Masturbation is a single type of safe and enjoyable act with yourself, at an appropriate time and place, and is harmless.
I've already responded to this.

The challenge with masturbation is not to strive to avoid it altogether. As many likely know, this is an exercise in futility. The challenge is to enjoy it responsibly, at appropriate time and place. This big thing you fear giving into, suddenly becomes no big deal when you realize and accept it is just a normal fun part of life.
Again with the "normal" argument.


Also, to avoid masturbation is not in fact an exercise in futility. Every day, Christians are learning how to gain mastery over their sexual feelings and to properly order them towards what gives honor and glory to God. "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor 10:13). God will give us the grace to do His will.

I think the main reason many are afraid of saying masturbation is fine, is because they fear their own sexuality. Because they don’t know it, and don’t get to know it, they decide they better just suppress it altogether, because they are afraid of what lurks in that box, so to speak. They fear that recognizing their sexuality will lead to something bad. I content that it is impossible to deny it, and is worse to deny it than it is to learn about it and enjoy it responsibly.
This is a strawman if I've ever seen one. Condemning masturbation is not about fear, it's about freedom....freedom from slavery to ourselves. If we give in to everything that feels good, then we slowly lose the power and freedom to say no, to the point that we become the puppet of our own physical urges. Would you rather be in control of your urges, or have your urges be in control of you?

God has shown us what His Will is regarding our sexuality. Anything contrary to this simply will not make us happy. Masturbation leads to short-term gratification and long-term pain. I'd rather deny myself now in anticipation for when I can act on my sexual impulses in a way that it is the most fulfilling and rewarding. You can have the cheap thrill. I'm waiting for the true happiness.

Pax Christi,


Jenny said...

This is solid stuff... More young people, men in particular, need to be confronted with the hard truth on issues of sexuality. Enough of the fluffy crap extolling the virtues of normalcy and popular opinion... truly chaste love is possible only when wed to an authentic possesion of self. Possesion of self = the ability to offer a gift of self. This has nothing to do with repression.

What is stiffling and repressing is the modern misconception that every sexual impulse is intrinsically good in and of itself, and that every hint of desire, every inclination in that direction, must reign sovereign over our free will... what kind of freedom are we promoting here?

I am not free when I am enslaved to my appetites, and I am not truly loving someone when I do so out of a biological sexual impulse akin to something one might feel for chocolate at times. Sexual desire is a natural good, but it is not an end in itself! I was not created as a sexual being in order to enjoy sex divorced from the profound dignity and the mystery of the other to whom my desires direct me... that's akin to saying apples were created in response to hunger, and have no intrinsic worth in their own right. A poor example, but a tangible illustration.

You (the other, whether in the magazine spread, in my mind's eye, or in my bed) exist to satisfy my desires, and I will use you in order to do so. Thanks so much.

Yeah, that sounds like freedom.

John said...

This is a great post. I was just introduced to this blog a couple weeks ago by a friend here at Florid State. You are becoming a local favorite in the men's community in the Catholic Student Union here and this post is a classic example of why. (This is the only blog I check, I never got into it before)

First of all, the slavery of this sin is so intrinsicly evil that people do not know they are slaves.

In response to what Jenny said about young men being confronted, she should know that there is an effort to do this. There is a group called Fraternus that is starting up and will hopefully sweep the nation in the next ten years. For lack of a good analogy, it is basically Catholic Eagle Scouts. It is a virtue based (emphasis on chastity)group for middle and high school boys with challenges and rewards in growing in virtue.

It will hit these kids hard, because sadly there seems to be a fear to talk about sexuality to middle schoolers in a CCD setting. The reality though, is that this is the time when pornography and masturbation come into their lives. It shouldn't be at a retreat in 10th grade that a guy hears that masturbation is wrong and why in a breakout session after 3,4,5 years of doing it and forming the habit. Getting enslaved.

So this group is about getting real and giving these kids a strong orthodox reason to live a chaste life (thank you, JP2) and give them challenges including accountablity partners, etc. to grow in the virtue.

In face of the truth the lie is what it is: a systematic destruction of the soul.

The truth will set us free from this culture of death. PLEASE PRAY FOR FRATERNUS.

Pax frater,


phatcatholic said...

Great comments from both of you! After I wrote this post, I was a little unsure as to whether or not I really nailed down why masturbation is such a grave disorder. I think you two have refined my arguments more, and I really appreciate that.

Laudate Dominum said...

LOL! For some reason that Spiderman picture cracked me up. haha. Good call.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see someone confronting this issue directly. I think this is something that gets swept under the rug most of the time - a "just don't think about it and maybe it's not happening" mentality.
My own feelings on the subject have to do with the sanctity of marriage more than the practices of youth (although I don't condone it on any account. I feel that giving in to this "urge" demeans the value of a marital relationship and ultimately can kill it.

It's not an easy thing to discuss and I commend you for it.
I was just surfing through the Catholic section of Blog Catalog and came across you. I have to admit, even the word "masturbation" made me do a double-take. I wasn't even sure what position you were taking and was afraid to read on. I'm glad I did. Well done.


GoGettyer said...

Just wanted to say that posts like this edify me. I've been free from masturbation for over a year now after 16 years of enslavement to it, by the grace of God and protection of Mary. And I don't feel one bit "suppressed" or "tense." I feel more free to love others, especially women, as they should be loved.

John said...

Praise God!

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